Fit Pregnancy Guidelines

Pregnant RunningYou’ve spent the last year or several years being fit, working out 3-5 times a week. Now you are pregnant and you have a few questions.

First we are going to discuss what you can and should do. Then we are going to get into some common mistakes made during fit pregnancies and pregnant athletes.

During pregnancy exercise helps swelling, varicose veins, back pain, etc.  It provides benefits to the baby.  But also know that Total Blood Volume in regularly exercising pregnant women is 10-15% higher than in women who do not exercise.  And the benefits of cardio (aerobic exercise) are still present 6-12 months after birth. Which is why some athletes have improved performance after birth.

The following list of Do's and Don'ts for fit pregnancies should be used in addition to the Pregnancy Exercise Guidelines.

Fit Pregnancy Do's:

Overall pregnant women have the same exercise guidelines as non-pregnant women – aim for 20-30 minutes of moderate activity most days of the week. But there are several anatomical changes and fetal requirements that require to your current exercise routine.

Stick to what you have been doing.  Exercise should not exceed pre-pregnancy levels.   ACSM suggests that moderate to hard is quite safe for a woman who is accustomed to this level of exercise.

Overall, maintain a Rate of Perceived Exertion between 13 and 14. You can also use the Talk Test - where you can speak a full sentence while working out.

You can continue exercise such as running as long as you and your OB discuss and maintain a healthy pregnancy.  All exercise needs to be discussed with your OB.

Fit Pregnancy Don'ts:

You might feel frustrated by some of the limitations that pregnancy places on your agility. For example, weight gain and laxity in ligaments and joints reduce your running speed. The weight in pregnancy increases the force on your hips and knees. Your fine motor skills might feel sluggish, and you might try to compensate for your loss of dexterity by using her body in awkward ways, inviting injury as a result.

Overall don’t don’t get overtired, don’t continue if you feel lack of coordination or discomfort, don’t forget adequate fluid, and don’t forget a thorough cool down.


Follow these additional guidelines according to your level of exercise.

Somewhat Active – When you are somewhat active (participating in exercise and activities a few times a week) 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity aerobic activity is encouraged. 20-30 minutes on most days is a good goal.  In addition to aerobic activity, strength training should be done every other day.

Exercise Veteran or “Recreational Athlete” – When you habitually engage in exercise, you can and should continue your regimen, adjusted over time. Any session over 45 minutes can lead to low blood sugar, so limiting the exercise session or ingesting adequate caloric intake prior to exercise is important.

Athletes  - can push their limits of pain and intensity.  For example, a woman feels an RPE of 14 while doing intense exercise. But maybe as an athlete they have “turned off” their guide.

Overall, if you exercise 45 minutes or more you will want to follow these safety guidelines:

  • Avoid hyperthermia – an elevated body temperature. This can be triggered by environment, hydration and/or intensity of routine.
  • Maintain adequate caloric intake to prevent low blood sugar, especially if the workout is longer than 45 minutes in duration.
  • Maintain weight gain as recommended by healthcare provider. Again adequate caloric intake to prevent weight loss or non-weight gain.
  • Maintain proper hydration, increase water intake throughout exercise and maintain proper water intake throughout the day.
  • Be aware of injuries due to joint laxity.  Relaxin is a wonderful hormone that allows the body to accomodate pregnancy, but it also creates loose joints and stability.
  • Avoid the Valsalva maneuver or holding your breath.
  • Refrain from getting overtired.
  • Perform a thorough warm up and cool down.
  • Know when to adjust routine due to lack of coordination or discomfort.
  • Maintain a Rate of Perceived Exertion between 13 and 14.
  • Discontinue exercise if any of the following occur: vaginal bleeding, regular painful contractions, amniotic fluid leakage, shortness of breath, dizziness, headache, chest pain, muscle weakness affecting balance, calf pain or anything that does not feel “right”.
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